But Brady also said this year’s talks were particularly sensitive given the pressure on transit workers during a pandemic that killed nine SEPTA workers, sickened hundreds more. and led to complaints about the deterioration of the safety of frontline staff.
“They are looking for compensation for what they have been doing throughout COVID,” he said. “The men and women who work for SEPTA, whether in the ticket office or driving trains, buses, I mean, they were there. They were there and they were exposed.
Brady said a transit strike would “have a major impact” on the region, disrupting commutes to work as offices begin to recall remote workers and causing “a blockage everywhere.” seeks to attract passengers after the pandemic.
Some of those who would be most affected by such a disruption are already bracing for the likelihood of a strike.
This month, the University of Pennsylvania issued a precautionary warning and a contingency plan to its students and faculties on the impact of a possible strike. Philadelphia school district officials are also bracing for a disruption in service; about 60,000 of its roughly 202,000 students and many teachers attended classes with SEPTA, before the pandemic.
Spokeswoman Monica Lewis said the district is particularly vulnerable to a transit strike right now, as officials have considered calling the National Guard to staff its own school buses.
“SEPTA’s support for our students and staff is even more important now, amid the current driver shortage affecting school districts and businesses locally and nationally,” Lewis said. “We sincerely hope that our school year can proceed without further uncertainty and disruption for the students, families and staff who have already endured so much in the past 20 months. “
The union can continue to work with an expired contract, and union sources have said it is highly unlikely to strike immediately by the October 31 deadline. But, in the past, outside parties – like Brady or Congressman Dwight Evans – have helped negotiate a final deal. Sources close to the negotiations also said that so far no such mediator has emerged.
Brady also said the planned strike authorization vote likely reflected wider discontent beyond the negotiating table.
“Your leaders cannot come out and say ‘we are going on strike’ without getting permission from its members,” he said. “The leadership of a union must speak on behalf of the members. Asking for permission to strike is what their members allow their leaders to do. “